Our Through a Glass Darkly meeting last week gave a considerable amount of food for thought. Catching up with the progress that the Ordered Universe team have made on Grosseteste’s treatises over the last three symposia On the Liberal Arts, On the Generation of Sounds, On the Six Differences, On the Sphere and the very first glimpses of On Comets was a reminder, again, of the range, complexity and beauty of his thought. The themes of body and of movement, of the influence of bodies on one another and the interplay of authoritative models and the natural world around him, emerge in these discussions in a powerful and prominent manner. We can see more clearly the three stages through which Grosseteste’s thought moves, from an alchemical, elemental and astrological view of the universe, to one dominated by light and embodied light at that, to the influence of light rays. These modes are not discreet, but overlapping, and are not presented by Grosseteste as contradictory to each other. His condemnation of judicial astrology in the Hexaemeron, for example, is orthodox and Augustinian, astrology cannot take the place of free will and must not be imagined to come to to doing so. At the same time Grosseteste reveals a frustration with technological inadequacies that render accurate measurement of time and space too difficult to make predictive judgment from star-gazing possible. Continue reading
During the Ordered Universe session at the 2015 Cheltenham Science Festival, with Tom McLeish, Hannah Smithson and Giles Gasper talking about Grosseteste: the Greatest Mind You’ve Never Heard Of…, we were interviewed by Margaret Harris, of Physics World. This, with subsequent interviews at Durham, is the basis of a podcast, now available on the Physics World website here. Giles, Tom, Hannah and Brian Tanner, talk about the Ordered Continue reading
On the 15th June, Giles, Cecilia and Sigbjørn took the Ordered Universe project on the road to Brussels, and, in particular, the Université Libre de Bruxelles. An invitation by Professor Christian Brouwer, Department of Philosophy and Director of the Bibliothèque des Science Humaines, to present the concept and results of the project in a seminar was an excellent opportunity. Christian and Odile Gilon ran a reading and translation group focused on the De luce of Robert Grosseteste, using Cecilia’s critical edition. It was, therefore, to an expert seminar that we made our presentation, with colleagues including Anja van Rompaey.
The presentation moved from the historical context, the purpose of the Ordered Universe collaboration (the provision of editions, translations, and analyses of Grosseteste’s scientific opuscula), and the nature of the collaboration in action. Some discussion of our most recent work on the treatise De artibus liberalibus followed, before Cecilia took on the question of Grosseteste’s development of a unitary understanding for first the cause. From the power of celestial bodies, to light, to the notion of radiation, it is clear that Grosseteste’s overriding concern was to consider what the first cause of motion might be. Sigbjørn gave details of some of the problems we have encountered in making the new editions and the solutions we have adopted. A summary of some of the scientific results of the project, modelling the medieval universe and the natural rainbow formed the final section (delivered by humanities scholars – but that we can do so is all part of the spirit of the collaboration!), and the cascade of artistic projects attached to various aspects of Ordered Universe research on Grosseteste. We finished with a showing of the World Machine projection.
A very engaging discussion ensued on the textual problems, how to relate Grosseteste’s different interests to each other especially the issues concerned with theology and science. Wider issues such as mathematical theologies, particularly as articulated by David Albertson, and Grosseteste’s intellectual inheritances, also formed part of the discussion.
Collaboration between the ULB Grosseteste Reading Group and Ordered Universe is very much in formation, and this will be of great benefit to the project.We’re delighted to be forging closer bonds with Christian and his team, one of whom, Anja, will be based in Oxford next year for post-doctoral fellowship. Greater access to Grosseteste’s scientific works is perhaps the primary aim of the Ordered Universe and it is heart-warming to see this taking place. We will post regularly on the Brussels-Ordered Universe activities, and look forward to seeing our Belgian colleagues soon! The Ordered Universe project members were very grateful for their generous welcome and hospitality and the opportunity to get to know Brussels better.
Robert Grosseteste and the pursuit of Religious and Scientific learning in the Middle-Ages. (Springer 2016) Eds. Jack P. Cunningham & M. Hocknull. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-33468, ISBN 978-3-319-33466-0. No. of pages 401. No. of illustrations 16 colour. £86.00.
Next Tuesday, 31st May, sees the first activity in the collaboration between the Ordered Universe and the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, Through a Glass Darkly. We have a day of creative collaboration across a wide range of media. Brian, Giles, Hannah, Clive, Josh, Ana Dias – a PhD student in medieval manuscript illumination at Durham, with Ross Ashton, Alexandra Carr and Alan Fentiman, will explore Grosseteste’s scientific opuscula with Cate Watkinson, Colin Rennie and undergraduate and postgraduate students at the National Glass Centre. Continue reading
News of a planned volume of essays on Solomon Ibn Gabriol (1021/2 -1050/70), a Jewish poet and philosopher from Muslim Iberia. Known to the Latin West as Avicenbron, and especially for his treatise the Fons vitae translated into Latin by ibn Daud and Dominicus Gundissalinus. The treatise was of some influence on Grosseteste, notably in the De luce. Nicola Polloni, Marienza Benedetto and Lucas Oro are the guiding force behind the volume. The call for papers is as follows: Continue reading
From relatively early on in school, young people start to think of themselves as ‘more sciency’ or ‘more of a humanities or languages person’. With these two poles, to one of which many students sooner or later find themselves gravitating, we tend to associate different personality attributes and skills. For humanities subjects, creative and outside-the-box thinking is deemed to be important, and we tend to expect people in the humanities to have a vivid imagination and maybe also an elaborate, ornate writing style. For the natural sciences, by contrast, we assume that what’s needed is sharpness and coherence of thought, quickness of the mind, and maybe most importantly, good quantitative reasoning skills.
Lighting up the whole of Durham City Centre later this week, Lumiere Durham is back in town. This festival of light, or artistic collaboration and of amazing sights and sounds has taken place every two years since 2009, and a wonderful, inventive, dynamic series of installations and shows have been included. Lumiere always includes a sound and light show on the Cathedral. This year, this show takes its title from Grosseteste’s treatise On light [De luce]. Continue reading
Tom continues his antipodean tour, and there is a good opportunity to catch up with his interview on ABC Brisbane. He is talking with Steve Austin about faith, wisdom, science, and the role that medieval insights can play in modern science.
Brian and Giles, meanwhile, will be talking today at the Royal Society, as part of the Open House London, activities. ‘A Thirteenth Century Theory of Everything’ will present the different views of Grosseteste over the centuries, from medieval to now, how medieval scholars thought about unity and multiplicity, and Grosseteste’s explanations for the model of the universe he presents in the De luce. Tickets are free: details at the Royal Society website. Continue reading
It was a enormous privilege to represent the AHRC at the Cheltenham Science Festival. From the first application to take the Ordered Universe project to the Festival, to the intensive media and presentation workshop at Polaris House, and then to working with the AHRC and Festival co-ordinators, it has been an exciting and supportive journey. The session we presented, ‘Robert Grosseteste: The Greatest Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of…’, started with Tom introducing Grosseteste’s physics of light, and the impact of this on his cosmology, especially in the treatise On Light, the De luce. The Cheltenham audience were extremely receptive: when Tom outlined the creation of the medieval universe from a single point of light, expanding spherically….in its eerie echoing of the Big Bang you could see the audience lean forward. Continue reading